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Mar 16, 5:06 PM EDT

Cuba offers Colombia 1,000 medical school scholarships

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HAVANA (AP) -- Cuba has offered Colombia 1,000 medical school scholarships to support a peace accord in which the South American country's largest rebel army will relinquish its weapons, officials announced on Thursday.

The scholarships will be distributed mostly to members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and those affected by the decades-long conflict, said Jose Luis Ponce, Colombia's Cuban ambassador. He said the move would help soldiers reintegrate into society.

"Both the government and FARC warmly welcomed this offer," he said.

Some 200 scholarships for Cuba's renowned Latin American School of Medicine will be awarded annually for the next five years and will cover all costs except flights to Cuba. Manuel Chorot, manager of state-owned Cubana de Aviacion, said he would offer affordable tickets to scholarship recipients.

The students are scheduled to start their studies in September in Cuba, which hosted peace discussions between Colombian government officials and FARC members that lasted four years and ended in 2016.

FARC commander Ivan Marquez thanked Cuba for what he said was a humanitarian gesture that would aid the peace process.

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